South Africa Weighing Tourism, Human Rights

South Africa Weighing Tourism, Human Rights

South African tourism stakeholders are concerned that new immigration regulations designed to help fight child trafficking could hurt the country’s fast-growing tourism industry, TravelPulse reports.

Tourism is worth more than gold exports in South Africa, contributing $3.32 billion to its economy between January and June, 2013, the report said.

But new immigration regulations will cost the country 270,000 tourists, more than $900-million in tourism revenue and 21,000 jobs annually, according to consultant Grant Thornton.

The new regulations, effective Oct. 1, require tourists with children under age 18 to show copies of unabridged birth certificates upon entry. Single parents must have an affidavit of consent from the other biological parent.

“We now face a moment in which the viability of the South African tourism sector is under threat,” said David Frost, CEO of the Southern African Tourism Services Association. “The irony is that this is not from terrorism or acts of nature, but from regulations imposed by our own Department of Home Affairs.”

End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, an organization leading the fight against child sex trafficking, says child trafficking is a human rights issue that remains largely under the radar because of its covert nature, TravelPulse reports. An estimated 1.2 million children are abducted by underground trafficking networks every year, the organization claims. According to the Polaris Project, 27 million people are now held in modern-day slavery.

The International Air Transport Association says South Africa is going overboard in its response, far exceeding best practices the IATA has adopted, TravelPulse reports: “The processes envisaged by far surpass those established in the Minors Best Practice document adopted by the IATA/Control Authorities Working Group, to which South Africa was a

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The regulations are the strictest of any country in the world, Frost said. Up to 20 percent of air travel to South Africa includes children, according to an estimate by the Board of Airline Representatives of Southern Africa.

Frost is calling for a 12-month moratorium on implementation of the new regulations to allow time for a comprehensive economic and regulatory impact study.

Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Home Affairs, shows no sign of budging with regard to immigration regulations. “Let me be very clear about this,” he said in a briefing. “There is absolutely no way that we are going to change these regulations. I think we need to balance and that is what we are trying to do — to strike a correct balance — because South Africa will never have tourism if we become a society of mass crimes.”

Frost claims the government will have to spend $4 million on public relations to repair the damage of the regulations.

“We are losing forward bookings and the goodwill of trade partners as we speak,” Frost said. “Key overseas associations and operators have sent an unequivocal message: the new regulations present an extra hurdle, an inconvenience, a cost barrier and a level of uncertainly that will divert tourism from South Africa to other destinations.”

American tour operators are also weighing in.

“It is a big challenge for families,” said Karin Jones, managing director of Los Angeles-based Anastasia’s Africa. “We are concerned they will not bring the correct birth certificate documents and they will be denied boarding.”

Dave Herbert, owner of Glendale, California-based Great Safaris, said his company is already losing family bookings because of the new regulations. He suggests delaying implementation until more discussions and studies can take place, TravelPulse reports.